Threatened government offices still 'highly useable'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 November, 2011, 12:00am


The redevelopment of Government Hill would cause the loss of a fine piece of modern, functional architecture, academics working with a concern group said yesterday.

The Government Hill Concern Group opened the latest effort in its year-long push to prevent the sale and demolition of a building called the west wing, one of three low-rise buildings designed in the 1950s at the site in Central, which the government wants to demolish to make way for new offices.

The latest argument from the alliance of 21 environmental and conservancy groups was supplied by three professors of architecture from Chinese University. Vito Bertin, a retired professor, said yesterday that he and his colleagues, having studied the original drawing plans for the west wing, found that it had been so skilfully designed that it was still a highly useable space.

'The original plan shows it is open, with two big zones inside, providing flexible space,' Bertin said. 'You can make lots of small rooms in it, or just leave it open.

'The new government headquarters at Tamar is not on this level. It looks big and shiny, but if you start looking, there is no proper entrance. It looks like a gas station; can't even provide dignified space,' Bertin said.

The professors' research on the buildings will be exhibited at the Conservancy Association's heritage centre in Sai Ying Pun, from Saturday until December 17.

The Development Bureau said yesterday that the scheme had been revised, taking public views into account. The size of a proposed underground shopping mall had been significantly reduced, and the new tower would provide extra space for the nearby Hong Kong Stock Exchange and Securities and Futures Commission, to strengthen Central's image as a financial district. The plan must be approved by the Town Planning Board.

Details of the land sale are expected to be announced soon.

While a government-appointed consultant said the west wing had little heritage value, historians supporting the concern group have argued that the building, one of the three blocks of the Central Government Offices, should be preserved so the integrity of Government Hill would not be destroyed.

The combination of the offices, Government House, St John's Cathedral and the French Mission Building gave rise to the name Government Hill as early as 1842.